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Process Automation and Analytics Korean Industry Sets Sights on Biotech: How Process Analytics goes Gangnam-Style

| Author/ Editor: Dominik Stephan* / Dominik Stephan

From shipyards to life-sciences: Automation manufacturers benefit from Korea’s industrial transition – Since the 1960s, Korea has seen an unparalleled transition from an agricultural country to one of Asia’s technology trailblazers. The technological edge secured the “land of the morning calm” a place among the world’s leading shipuilders, cars and electronics manufacturers and plant engineering specialists. After the shipping crisis and the declining crude price, Korea’s multinationals have set their sighths of life-sciences and process engineering. To promote the transition from shipyards to lab-floor, process understanding and state of the art technology are becoming the key enablers.

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Between K-Pop and Confucianism: South Korea, the Asian powerhouse at the Yellow Sea, is best known for the ongoing conflict with its Stalinist neighbor or hyped up rap musicians from Seoul’s scenester district Gangnam in the West. But the little country is in fact also the world’s eleventh largest economy.

Gone are the days in which the Korean peninsula was the “hermit Kingdom”, shrouded in secrets and seclude from the rest of the world. Today, cars, electronics, smartphones and flatscreens from the “Country of the morning calm” are in high demand worldwide. Korean multis are also among the leading shipbuilding and engineering firms.

Lesser known in Europe but in high demand in Asia are cosmetics and life-science products from Korea. The powders and cremes enjoy an excellent reputation due to the quality of raw materials and careful production. In terms of education levels, Koreans are among the world leaders: More than 70 % of young people are attending a university.

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After heavy industry, electronics and manufacturing, biotechnology booms in Korea: 53.5 billion Wong (ca. 40 million Euro) public spending is invested in Research & Development, 18.2 % of which for bio-projects. And that every year. That is more than in electronics or electrical engineering (15.1 %) and nearly as much as in IT (18.4 %).

Insights in an 18.6 Billion-Dollar Market

Korean companies have long since closed the gap on Western rivals and prepare their masterstroke with innovations galore: Although generics still account for 47 % of Korea’s pharmaceuticals market of 18.6 billion Dollar/year, companies like Hanmi, Boryung Pharm, Genexine or Viromed were able to sell licenses for 20 new developed drugs for a total of 9.3 billion Wong to international partners in 2014.

To help the pharmaceutical boom to make the leap from test tube and miscroscope to bi-business, seven biotech clusters are being established. On the forefront of this development is a leading electronics expert — and process analytic technology from “Old Europe”.

Incheon, Economic Powerhouse and Gateway to Seoul

From the rooftop of the G-Tower 150 meters above the ground one has a breathtaking view over the Yellow Sea and the street canyons of Incheon. The city with a population of 2.9-million just outside of Seoul is a hub for international trade with the second biggest port in Korea and a 20,938 hectares free economic zone.

Incheon is also home to one of the most ambitious projects of Korea’s high-tech-trailblazers Samsung: The country’s biggest multinational (“Jaebol” in Korean) plans to take the bio-pharmaceuticals crown with Samsung Biologics, formed in 2011 as a joint venture with Quintiles. In this process, the know-how acquired in IT and chip manufacturing should help in the manufacturing methods and processes, but also the corresponding technology. And this arrives at quite decisive position from Europe.

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